April 19, 2005 The Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved a 20-year lease between Choice Communications and the V.I. Government Tuesday that would allow Choice to erect a communication tower near the Bovoni Landfill.
Choice, which provides its services though a wireless system, plans to erect a tower at the site to expand its service coverage on St. Thomas. The company is a local digital cable and Internet service provider wholly owned by Atlantic TeleNetwork Inc. (ATN).
ATN Chief Executive Officer Cornelius Prior told senators his company uses high frequencies to provide the services, and that required direct line-of-sight to the customer's receiving antenna. Prior said the site, located on the peninsula beyond the Bovoni Landfill, was perfect for the tower.
"Completion of our site there will enable Choice to offer its digital wireless television programming service and high-speed Internet service to the residents of Bovoni, including the housing community, Nadir and Frydenhoj," Prior said. "Additionally, it will supplement our partial coverage in areas such as Bolongo, Frenchman's Bay and Nazareth."
Choice has 50 percent coverage on St. Thomas, Prior said, as opposed to its 80 percent coverage on St. Croix.
The company will lease the land for $18,000 annually, with an option to renew every five years.
"In negotiations with Property and Procurement, we agreed to their suggested rent for this site, even though the agreed-upon rent for this unimproved property was greater than the average of what we pay for sites with both tower and building facilities already in place," Prior said. "We did so, planning on making the capital investments necessary to attract other tenants, thereby making the project viable."
Prior said his company would invest about $470,000 in the project. He said that cellular companies may want to take advantage of the tower, and he would be willing to open it up for use by competitors at a fee.
"Cellular coverage in that area is weak," Prior said.
Senators approved the lease but asked Prior to consider a public access channel to air Senate sessions.
"The Legislature is very important to the people," Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. said. "We want a local channel."
Prior said they would be able to do it but needed to get a feed from a company to broadcast the hearings.
In other action, the Finance committee also approved lease agreements for Elskoe and Elskoe Entertainment Inc. and Texas Pit BBQ.
The Elskoe lease is for 14,115 square feet of land in Sub Base for the operation of a restaurant and nightclub at $22,584 annually for 20 years. The lease agreement for Texas Pit is for 11,632 square feet of land, also in Sub Base, for the operation of a barbecue pit and an office.
All leases were forwarded to the full body for consideration.
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